The PGA Tour heads for Texas this week and the Houston Open. Russell Henley defends the title as the players complete their final preparations for the U.S. Masters next week.
Houston Open Preview, TV Times
The Houston Open has traditionally been contested in the week prior to The Masters and the Rees Jones designed layout is always set up to replicate the sort of conditions the players will face at Augusta.
As such, the event attracts a strong field as players complete their final Masters preparation. This year Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are all on the start list. At the time of writing, 19 in the Houston field are set to play at Augusta.
Jordan Spieth will be looking to find his form this week on a course where he was runner-up in 2015 before going on to claim victory in The Masters. He’s struggling so far this season with a best finish of ninth.
Coming into the event hoping to retain his strong form is 2011 Houston Open winner Phil Mickelson. In strokeplay competition, he has finished in the top-10 on his last four starts.
The Houston Open began life in 1946 and over the years it’s seen some notable winners including Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Roberto DeVicenzo. Last year Russell Henley won by three strokes from Sung Kang.
In 2008, Augusta National restored the Houston Open’s automatic winner’s ticket for The Masters so this event provides a last chance for a player to make it to the year’s first Major. Russell Henley took advantage of that last season.
In 72 instalments, there have been no fewer than 23 playoffs in the Houston Open. On the PGA Tour, only the U.S. Open has witnessed more playoffs than that with 33.
The weather looks set to be pretty reasonable with dry conditions dominating. There could be some wind to contend with though.
Venue: Golf Club of Houston, Humble, Texas
Date: Mar 29 – Apr 1
Course stats: par 72, 7,441 yards
Defending champion: Russell Henley (-20)
How to watch the Houston Open
Thursday 29 – Sky Sports Golf from 9pm, featured groups on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 1.30pm
Friday 30 – Sky Sports Golf from 9pm, featured groups on Sky Sports Golf from 1.30pm
Saturday 31 – Sky Sports Golf from 7pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 9.30pm
Sunday 1 – Sky Sports Golf from 7pm Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Main Event from 8pm
Not a Sky Sports customer and want to watch the Houston Open?
Why not buy a Now TV pass? For £7.99 you can get a day pass if you wish to watch one of the rounds or, for just £12.99, you can get a week pass to see the whole tournament.
Players to watch:
Henrik Stenson – The Swede looked to be on great form at Bay Hill and, had his putter behaved better on Sunday, he might have pushed Rory to the line. He’s twice been second in this event so clearly enjoys the course.
Russell Henley – The defending champion is extremely consistent on this course and his last four finishes have all been inside the top-seven.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – His game looks solid and he was tied third in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was fourth in this event in 2016.
Key Hole: 18th. A tough par-4 of 488 yards, a lake borders the entire left-hand side of the hole. From the tee the golfer must attempt to carry as much water as possible to reduce the length of the second shot. The approach is equally challenging, as anything straying to the left side will find a watery grave.
Skills required: Scrambling. This is a course that set up to resemble conditions at Augusta. As such, a premium is placed on the short game. The man who can get it up and down on a regular basis will have a great advantage here.